Nevada’s Haunted Heritage

October is here! Time for pumpkins, trick-or-treaters and … HAUNTED HERITAGE! Ever noticed that wherever heritage goes, ghosts — or rather ghost tales — follow? We did too! Nevada has its share of ghostly, historically significant destinations and even eery and isolated “ghost towns.” If you’re looking for creepy with an accompanying dose of local culture, then celebrate Halloween with a visit to Virginia City, Tonopah, or even Caliente and Delamar. You may not come face to face with the dead … but will for sure encounter stunning structures and local lore along the way!

Virginia City

If there are ghosts anywhere in Nevada, then surely they must be here! Virginia City Historic District is a National Historic Landmark; a “boomtown” whose contributing properties include the Storey County Courthouse, the Fourth Ward School (now a museum), and the Territorial Enterprise building where Mark Twain once worked. Virginia City offers stunning views, performing arts, and heritage museums.

But is there more to these cheerful, Italianate structures than what meets the eye? Consider the tale of “Rosie,” eternal lady of the night and long term resident at the Silver Queen Hotel. Legend has it that Rosie was a prostitute who committed suicide in the late 1800s by slashing her wrists in Room 11. The Silver Queen Hotel is still active, boasting rooms with 16-foot ceilings and authentic claw foot tubs. Guests and staff alike report mysterious footsteps, tapping, jiggling doorknobs and voices in Rosie’s room and nearby hallways.


Tonopah is another of Nevada’s boomtowns, home to a bustling silver mine in the 1890s-1920. Unlike the bright lights of Reno and Las Vegas, Tonopah rests sleepily under the state’s darkest skies. Popular with stargazers, Tonopah’s wild west facades stand against a black, cloudless backdrop filled with thousands of stars. On some nights, the Milky Way is visible.

Greater than its reputation for stargazing, however, is its reputation for being haunted. Among its haunts ,the most notorious is the Mizpah Hotel, built in 1907. A structure of reinforced concrete, faced with stone, the hotel stood five stories tall making it — at one time –the tallest building in Nevada. Today, the hotel is known for it’s most famous ghost: The Lady in Red. While no one is really certain who The Lady in Red really was, legend has it that she was murdered at the hand of a jealous lover in Room 512. In addition to the Lady in Red are the ghosts of two children — a boy and a girl — who run and play in the halls of the fourth floor.

If you find yourself needing to escape from one of these friendly ghosts while staying in Tonopah, guests can visit Tonopah’s Historic Mining Park and the Central Nevada Museum as well.


Finally, if you’re not into ghosts but dig the picturesque appeal of Nevada’s abandoned “ghost towns,” then Caliente and nearby Delamar are for you.

Built in 1923 in the Mission Revival style, the Caliente Railroad depot served travelers en route to Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, and was designed by prominent Los Angeles father-son team John and Donald Parkinson. Today, the building houses Caliente’s city hall, a public library and art gallery, and much of its solid oak interior still remains intact.


Just west of Caliente, lies the now ruinous hills of Delamar. Delamar was founded in 1894 and quickly became a mining town of 1500 residents. The town consisted of an opera house, hospital, churches, etc. and was built out of rocks native to the area. The small town earned its nickname “The Widowmaker” due to many of its miners developing silicosis from breathing the fine particulate quartzite dust. Many of its Main Street facades still remain intact.

Careful! A trip to Delamar is not for the faint of heart! Delamar is off of US 93 approx. 16 miles west of Caliente, NV. Drive about 15 miles south on a gravel/rock road to Delamar. Sign is posted on gravel road. Four wheel drive vehicle is encouraged.

Haunted Heritage Resources

Interested in the growing field of haunted heritage? For a good read discussing the interplay of “haunts” and history check out Michele Hanks’ Haunted Heritage; the Cultural Politics of Ghost Tourism, Populism and the Past. Hanks examines the double-edged nature of ghostly heritage tourism trends. On one hand, ghost tours create interest and curiosity, diversifying and attracting new audiences, while on the other hand, more extreme practices like paranormal investigations may compromise traditional historical research methods, when participants interpret their personal “paranormal communications” as historic fact.

What do you think? Is haunted heritage a threat? A dumbing-down of of our history? A necessary funding evil? Or just plain old fun and games?

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